Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Seminary Says Thanks!

Last evening the Seminarians, Faculty and Staff gathered to celebrate Thanksgiving as a seminary community.  A great time was had by all!  Father Bryan Parrish, Assistant Vicar for Administration in the Archdiocese of Boston, preached at Vespers and Holy Hour before the evening meal.

Father Joseph Scorzello, beloved spiritual director and professor of philosophy, offered the following reflections:

We understand that expressions of gratitude for gifts received flows from the very nature of the human person as a human property. The Second Pre-Theologians (and to some degree the First Pre-Theologians) appreciate that the reason for the existence of the universe and that everything in it comes from an explanation outside the realm of material reality. All of existence is a pure gift from the cause that is uncaused, that is, what the philosopher calls efficient causality. All mankind must be grateful to this reality for the gift of existence. However, the human person manifests thankfulness not to an abstract principle but to a person. For the disciple of Christ it is God, Yahweh, that is, the Blessed Trinity that deserves our gratitude. 

Leaving the theoretical aside without disregard for the insights discovered there we now turn to concrete realities indicating those gifts that we are most thankful for. 

We are thankful for your lives that we have received through the unconditional love of God in union with the self-sacrificing reciprocal love of our parents. This life is transformed by the life of faith which is the supernatural gift of God nourished and protected in our natural and ecclesial family life. This gift of our participation in the salvific plan of God for all mankind is revealed to us in the Incarnation of His Beloved Son, in his life, teaching, suffering, death, resurrection, and in his gift of the Holy Spirit. 

Here at St. John's Seminary we are most grateful for the many concrete expressions of God's loving presence. We are thankful for our new students who bring to us a new vitality and enthusiasm, for the gift of our returning students who have acquired a more profound appreciation of their call to priestly life and ministry and their continued maturation in the interior life of holiness. There is also a deep sense of gratitude for our new faculty members, especially Father Joseph Briody, coming to us from the land of Saints and Scholars, who brings to St. John's extraordinary talents and another perspective of the universal Church. 
Personally I am grateful to all of you for your patience and understanding and your genuine concern and affection for my mother. I am especially thankful for your patience as I move from director of Pre-Theology and teacher of philosophy to Spiritual Director and teacher of philosophy. I am deeply moved by the dedication and sincerity of all the members of St. John's, the Staff, the Faculty, the students, all the support staff and especially the kitchen staff, this total commitment is itself a unique and extraordinary gift for the Church of Boston and the Church of New England. 

With the Advent season upon us, celebrating His first Coming, and anticipating His Second Coming and experiencing his presence here and now in the celebration of the Sacraments and ecclesial life, we anticipate that the Lord will continue to be most generous in offering his many gifts and so we are most thankful. 

We would also be most grateful to God if Father Scorzello were to be brief in his remarks. 

Thank you Lord. Laudate Jesu Cristo! 

A toast was offered by the newest member of our faculty, Father Joseph Briody.  Father Briody, a priest of the Diocese of Raphoe in Ireland, is celebrating his first Thanksgiving in these native lands.

My Lord Bishop Kennedy, Very Rev. Monsignor Moroney, Rector, Rev. Fathers and Faculty members, dear staff and seminarians, esteemed guests, friends… It is a great honor to propose the toast at the Second Pre-Theology Thanksgiving Dinner. I sincerely thank the Second Pre-Theology Class for inviting me to perform this pleasant task. Michael Rora convinced me to do this by explaining that the new boys do all the work for the Thanksgiving Dinner and as a new boy I really needed to step up to the plate. He twisted my arm. It still hurts! Fr Scorzello suggested that perhaps the Second Pre-Theology Class just wanted to mimic or make fun of my accent afterwards! But I’m sure that’s not true. Seminarians could never be that wicked or cruel, at least not here? I can’t really say anything else about Fr. Scorzello because I know he will be speaking later and so he’ll have the last word. He always does!

This is my first time to celebrate Thanksgiving. This time last year America was a far distant land for me, way across the Atlantic Ocean, represented by the many very impressive American people I had met. America was the land of the free and the brave; the land of opportunity and achievement; the land of liberty, especially of religious liberty; of equality, justice, democracy and authentic diversity; the land of openness, optimism, excellence, courtesy, helpfulness and “Yes we can!” More importantly, at least to my mind as a child, it was the homeland of lattes, burgers and waffles; of ice cream sundaes, Mac Donald’s and Dunkin Doughnuts. All the really important things in life! America was the land that gave us the best movies and the best TV series – like the American Office – much better than the English Office! America gave us the Simpsons, Friends, Desperate Housewives, (not that I watched it!) Frasier and Cheers – “where everybody knows your name.” I’m convinced that Monsignor Mc Laughlin starred in some of the early episodes of Cheers though he continues to deny it. His accent is just the same. When I first heard him speak I thought: “He’s from Cheers!” Since he’s not speaking later tonight I can say things about him! America has given us so much. You have even given us our beloved Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown! Thank you.

We have so much to thank God for. I have so much to thank you for. We all have reasons to be grateful to the Lord and to each other – for faith, for the religious liberty to practice our faith openly, for family, friendship, fraternity, formation, for this place and the good things we enjoy here, for the gifts of life and grace and vocation. I am grateful to God that he led me very unexpectedly to this “holy house” as Monsignor Moroney describes it, and I’m grateful to Monsignor Moroney for asking my Bishop to release me to come here. (I always wanted to go on the foreign missions!) Coming here, being with you seminarians, being with the faculty, has had one main effect on me – I really want to go home!! Seriously, the effect on me is that I would like to be a better priest, more worthy of this new task and this new place.

That’s a bit serious for a toast at Thanksgiving Dinner! Reverend Fathers, dear seminarians, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to propose a toast. Could I please ask you to be upstanding. Let us raise our glasses and drink - to St. John’s and to all who inspire our gratitude!

Finally, I read excerpts from the Proclamation by which our sixteenth President established Thanksgiving as a national holiday in these United States.

A Proclamation.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God…
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.
I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. 
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln